Sports

Ezekiel Elliott Is (Hopefully Still) Our Hero in a Half-Shirt (or No Shirt)

From his 21st birthday to his third training day, Zeke is trying to keep the focus on football.

My friends will readily confirm that I couldn’t care less about football. Unless we’re talking about a football player who happens to be a national champion Ohio State Buckeye turned Dallas Cowboy with the best abs and biggest smile in the business. And a boyishly irresistible bear hug. Because then, yes, I’m all in.

When I sat down to interview the Cowboys’ first round draft pick at Valley Ranch for the August “Best of Big D” issue, I considered wearing my “Ann Arbor Is a Whore” t-shirt. Instead, I decided to pay tribute to his new job with a subtle Cowboy blue outfit and a gift of a Glad Tupperware container of homemade Buckeyes (better known in these parts, incorrectly, as peanut butter balls).

Zeke seemed to be settling in just fine. He was shopping for a house in Frisco and making friends with his fellow rookies. He missed his 1-year-old Rottweiler, Ace, who was back in his hometown of St. Louis, but was making plans to bring him down.

I asked him if he was going to get any local tats to go with his Gateway Arch, Block O, and National Championship trophy that he sports on his left arm. He gave me a blinding grin and said his mom didn’t want him to get any more, but he probably would.

A couple of days later, Elizabeth Lavin, our photographer, got the even better gig—to photograph Zeke in his first-ever photo shoot. She got some incredible shots of him, and his tattoos, on one of the team’s last days at Valley Ranch. It seemed a shame to waste them, so here they are.

Those of you who pay close attention to FrontBurner may have noticed this post go live briefly on July 22, Zeke’s 21st birthday. That turned out to be the same day that his ex-girlfriend made domestic violence allegations against him in Columbus, Ohio, where he had gone to celebrate. Four witnesses, including a second woman who was sitting in the same car at the same time the alleged incident took place, have stated that there was no assault, and no criminal charges have been filed. But the Columbus City Attorney’s Office and the NFL are still investigating.

I had intended to wish Zeke a happy birthday. Now I’ll wish him a happy training camp. With the hope that he stayed true to Coach Urban Meyer’s teaching and the proclamation that he saw every day he left practice on the Ohio State locker room wall: “Treat women with respect.”

Otherwise, I want those Buckeyes back.

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